Magazine article The Spectator

The Best V. the Worst

Magazine article The Spectator

The Best V. the Worst

Article excerpt

Just over a year ago Charles Duelfer was almost murdered by a suicide bomber in Baghdad. He was saved by the Kansas National Guardsmen in his security detail, who sacrificed their lives for his.

The incident provides an allegory for what is happening in Iraq -- a struggle, in Duelfer's words, between 'the worst of humanity and the best of humanity', a war between the forces of destruction and creation. It is a struggle in which there can be no doubt as to who is right and who is wrong.

Duelfer, a brilliant and assiduous veteran of UN weapons investigations in Iraq, was recently head of the US's Iraq Survey Group. His definitive four-volume report explains why so many of the world's governments and intelligence agencies were convinced before the 2003 invasion that Saddam Hussein still had the weapons of mass destruction he had used before, against Iran and the Iraqi Kurds.

On 8 November 2004 Charles Duelfer was driving into Baghdad, escorted by Kansas National Guardsmen whose mission, said Duelfer, was 'to protect life'. Suddenly a red car, loaded with artillery rounds, began to accelerate straight at Duelfer's car. It was driven by a young man who, in Duelfer's words, had been 'channelled, like others before him, to commit his life to destruction'.

The men from Kansas, said Duelfer, 'unhesitatingly reacted to preserve life and drove their vehicle to block the car bomb. The blast was huge and chaos erupted as the impulses to destroy and protect clashed.' Sergeant Don Allen Clary and Sergeant Clint Wisdom died saving Charles Duelfer.

On the first anniversary of their death last month he said, in a tribute to them, that the awful incident showed him that 'the urge to create must win over the urge to destroy'.

Those murders on the airport road symbolise the battle that is taking place throughout Iraq. For all the mistakes made by the US-led coalition, its mission is creative -- to help the Iraqi people build a decent society for the first time in their lives, and to encourage other states in the Middle East in the same direction. By contrast, the mission of the terrorists who killed Sergeants Wisdom and Clary and so many thousands of other Americans and Iraqis, including women, children and teachers, is only destructive. They have nothing to offer Iraqis except vengeance, religious insanity and death.

There is much talk now, in both the US and Europe, of pulling out a large number of troops as soon as possible in 2006. This is very dangerous and could destroy all that is being achieved. Whatever the reasons for going to war (and I still think those reasons were valid), American commitment and sacrifice are creating a vital opportunity for both Iraq and the Middle East to progress towards civil society. Premature pull-out would be a disaster. One of the bravest women I know, Maysoon al-Damluji, left her architect's practice in London to help build the new Iraq. In a recent interview with www. opendemocracy. net, she said that although she disliked the continuing occupation, 'this doesn't alter my belief that their withdrawal would have grave consequences: we could end up in a civil war'.

The news from Iraq -- particularly on the BBC -- is dominated by stories of destruction, of car bombs, murders, kidnaps and other terrors. But there is creation taking place as well. A lot of it. …

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